edtimpsonA £30 million fund to support parents to navigate the new special educational needs (SEN) process has been announced by Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson.

The Children and Families Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament, will make significant changes to the support available for children with SEN, according the minister.

The reforms include replacing SEN statements and learning disability assessments with new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, which will set out all the support that families will receive in one place.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, welcomed the announcement of the fund. He said: "Parents currently face a battle to get the right support for their disabled child, and struggle to find their way around a complex system.

"We welcome the Government’s decision to allocate this funding to the voluntary and community sector, overseen by the Council for Disabled Children. This is an explicit vote of confidence in the skills and expertise of the sector in securing best outcomes for disabled children and young people.

"However, the EHC Plan is only part of the Government’s current education reforms. The majority of children and young people using the new system will not get an EHC Plan, and the Government must ensure that their needs are met through improved, accessible local services and child-focus support in schools.”

End to current battles
It is hoped that the reforms will bring an end to the battles that families can currently face to get the right support for their disabled child.

The fund will be used to recruit and train a pool of 'independent supporters' – champions drawn from independent voluntary, community and private organisations – to help the families of children and young people to develop meaningful EHC Plans.

Clare Gent, Action for Children’s service development manager for disabilities, added: "Independent supporters are a lifeline for disabled children, ensuring they receive the best possible support from health, education and social care services.

"For families we help, having a trusted professional as a single point of contact for all aspects of their child’s care makes a complex support system more manageable. However, this programme must be sustainable: children and families will not benefit if this announcement only leads to a short-term change."

The Council for Disabled Children will invite applications from private, voluntary and community sector organisations who believe they can offer independent supporters from within their ranks.